As they continue praying for the release of their 17 missionaries kidnapped by gangsters in Haiti, the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said nearly half the country is now “under the control of gangs,” as a powerful local crime boss called on the United States and the United Nations to sever ties with the government to “liberate” citizens.
“This is now the 19th day since the kidnapping in Haiti took place. Our workers and loved ones are still being held. Our prayer is that God would protect them and give them courage as they endure yet another day as hostages,” Christian Aid Ministries said in a statement Wednesday. “The political situation in Haiti remains extremely volatile. Numerous reports state that nearly half the country is under the control of gangs. Pray for the many Haitians who suffer during this time of upheaval.”
Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, leader of the G9 Family and Allies, a federation of nine violent gangs that control much of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, called on the U.S. and U.N. Wednesday to cut ties with his government nearly four months after the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse.
“We take this opportunity to invite the United Nations in general and the so-called friendly countries of Haiti, in particular the United States of America, to register in this page of history as loyal allies who want the well-being of the Haitian people by divorcing the status quo,” Cherizier said at a press conference.
The call comes amid the growing insecurity in the Caribbean nation, including hundreds of kidnappings, such as those of the 17 Christian Aid Ministries missionaries being held captive by the 400 Mawozo gang since October. A civil society group in that country reports that 600 kidnappings were recorded from January to September, compared with 231 over the same period last year.
Cherizier, who is reportedly one of Haiti’s most wanted men, has blamed the unrest on Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry whose resignation he has repeatedly called for.
Wilson Joseph, leader of the 400 Mawozo gang, recently threatened to “put a bullet in the heads” of the kidnapped missionaries if his $17 million ransom demand for their release isn’t met.
“I swear by thunder that if I don’t get what I’m asking for, I will put a bullet in the heads of these Americans,” he said in a video that has been circulating on social media.
The group of missionaries who were kidnapped on Oct. 16 while they were working with Christian Aid Ministries include six men, six women and five children, of which 16 are Americans and one is Canadian. They range in age from an 8-month-old baby to a 48 year old.
Last week, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said President Joe Biden continues to be briefed daily about the kidnapping of the missionaries and noted that he was particularly concerned about the five children in the group.
“I personally give an update on this issue every single day to the president, who is taking a deep interest in making sure we get every single one of those people home safely,” Sullivan said.
While there has been no official update on the negotiations to free the 17 missionaries, the Ministry of Defense in Haiti’s neighboring Dominican Republic confirmed on Thursday that five U.S. helicopters that landed in Puerto Plata province to refuel and rest are likely on their way to Haiti on a humanitarian mission.
“The helicopters caused a stir on social networks, due to the political crisis in Haiti, aggravated by the kidnapping of 17 American missionaries,” said the Dominican Today. “The operation is likely the start of a U.S. humanitarian mission in Haiti.”